Response to Ryan’s Thoughts: RE: Charlie Hebdo Entry

Hello Readers,

So I’m breaking my blog response cherry today. This blog is finally getting big enough (or insane enough. Depends on your view) where other Masons are weighing into my blog entries.

Just yesterday, Ryan Mercer at Ryan’s Thoughts, responded to my blog entry. He had a lot of disagreements. I’m going to read his blog in real time and write my thoughts in real time. So here goes.

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I appreciate your thoughts but I disagree on some points.

“because they were exercising their free speech”

There is the right to having free speech and being able to say what you want. I’m all for that. However there is also being repeatedly disrespectful to another’s views/beliefs/religion. This is no longer free speech, this is being uncivil and absolutely disrespectful to others. While I don’t think they should have died/deserved to die, I do think they were guilty of not exercising civility. Just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should.

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At first glance, there is a lot to agree with here. Civility is the hallmark of a well run and upstanding society. But approaching this Masonically, there are some other things to consider.

We as Masons are taught to square our actions. For me interpreting squaring my actions means I strive to treat everyone the same. Idealistic, I know, but I at least try to at least treat everything within a certain station of life the same.

This station right here is in regards to criticism of religion. Considering this is a western world centric blog I’ll try to focus on Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Christians and sects of Christianity are often satired in the Western world. Take a look at South Park alone. Look at the various politics cartoon of Christian characters doing and saying dumb things. Here’s a few to provide context.

tumblr_lzfaasv8WT1rnsvk1o1_1280114404_600

Christian-vs-Islamic-Terror

I understand where many of these political cartoons come from. For the record many Christians do and say some really off the mark things. Insane things even.

The biggest issue I have is how Ryan would classify disrespect. Showing images of Islam is considered disrespectful to many Muslims. Showing Israel in a bad light is considered disrespectful to many Jews/Judaism.  Because of the fluid and diverse range of views within each group it’s impossible to exercise free speech without disrespecting someone. So for me, I take the “gloves off approach” where all forms of satire are welcome. When a NY Art Exhibit displayed a Jesus made entirely of shit (Article), my first instinct was to be offended. My second instinct was to understand that this person was exercising free speech. And the best way to “push back” was to have an open and honest dialogue about this. Or to “vote with our attendance” and just not validate things like this. I still probably would have shown up anyways to see what we really going on.

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“constantly threatened with death for doing something as simple as writing funny cartoons”

One man’s funny is quite offensive to others. You don’t attack other’s beliefs, especially religion. You respect the rights of others to believe what they want. You don’t continually mock one’s religion/God/prophet in satirical illustrations that some even offend people NOT of the religion being mocked. They weren’t being funny, they were being mocking, nay, derisive and full of hatred in their magazine.

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I disagree. You ABSOLUTELY question other people’s religious beliefs. If people are twisting their own religious doctrine to fit an agenda, I would argue with them the same way I would a scientist who tries to twist his research to fit an agenda. Question everything is my motto.

Ryan calls them an attack, and I can see why he feels that way. But again, it’s so hard to find the line between questioning vs. attacking that I err on the side of considering everything questioning. This also makes other people feel less likely that you are attacking them and helps the conversations stay civil.

Also in regard to people not finding those comics funny, there were people who absolutely found those comics to be funny. They would have been out of business if they didn’t. And again regarding it being disrespectful, see my thoughts in the previous section.

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“We as Masons are taught through our ritual and through our culture that we have a bond to the fraternity and each other”

We are also instructed that we are all on the level and that we shouldn’t judge others for their beliefs. We’ve also learned as Masons that it’s not fun to be persecuted… I mean the wiki entry Suppression of Freemasonry is a good starting point. Let me ask you this Brother, how would you feel if someone took something sacred to you, let’s say Freemasonry, and began making hate-filled ‘satirical’ cartoons about Freemasonry. You’d be mad. Now what if you were devoutly religious and someone started taking your God/prophet/important religious figure and started making cartoons about them showing them doing idiotic thing, carrying out acts of a sexual or romantic nature with a person or animal that your religion prohibits etc? You’d be mad.

Pardon my language, but what really chaps my ass, is the fact that there WERE Brothers working at this publication. We shouldn’t be making fun of the beliefs of others, whether we find it comical or not (because they probably won’t). These satirical comics that Charlie Hebdo were producing were funny to some but grossly offensive to others. That’s just unacceptable.

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We shouldn’t judge other people for their beliefs? Where in the ritual is that? Also many many MANY Masons in history have questioned various religious and political beliefs. That is one of my favorite parts of the fraternity.

If someone made comics attacking Freemasonry, I would be THRILLED to offer a rebuttal. Them getting me mad would mean my passions are not in due bounds. I would stay calm and offer reasons to why the comic or such was misguided.

Also in regard to attacking my religion, I would be mad at first but my VSL calls for me to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. So anger would be something I would try to avoid.

I’m glad brothers were working at Charlie Hebdo. Again no matter what you do you will always find a way to offend someone. I do agree that we and they shouldn’t be making fun of people for their beliefs. Yet people are sensitive and just describing someone’s religions in the wrong way could make that person think you’re making fun of them.

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“I also felt pride that my brothers were there, doing things that stood for something and shaped the world.”

I’m sorry, I don’t take pride in bullying and bigotry. They weren’t making cartoons saying why they preferred their belief over the belief of their target, they were showing extreme prejudice and bigotry for a specific group of people that make up a significant portion of the world’s population.

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Bullying? Charlie Hebdo was a publication with 45,000 papers circulated per issue. A minor player on the grand scheme of things and treated as such by French society. Not quite the school yard bully who runs the show by intimidating the smaller kids around him. More like a fly in the ointment.

Also the criticism that they weren’t saying their preferred belief over the belief of the target shows a misunderstanding of the nature of political cartoons. They target a problem and show it in a humorous or thoughtful light. Asking them to clarify complex issues is like complaining that a poem doesn’t show real character development. It’s not their purpose to do what you’re criticizing them for.

Also the significant portion of the world population is immaterial to me. Wealthy people are a fraction of the population. Atheists are a moderately sized part of the population in Europe. Jews are a fraction of the population. Christians are a massive population. Muslims have a massive population. People who believe that Global Climate Change is real are a signification portion of the population. People who believe Evolution is real or not real both significant or small portions of the population depending on where you are. Etc. Population size is immaterial to me.

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“but Michel and Bernard were the ones who actually were going out and doing something. They were the ones with the guts. The ones without fear.”

They were the ones showing cowardice, afraid of the beliefs of others and lashing out against those beliefs with disrespectful illustrations that they claimed to be tasteful satire. Disgusting.

I’m truly sorry that these individuals were killed but let us take some good from this tragedy. Let us see it as a reminder to be more civil and tolerant of the beliefs of others, to be more respectful of the beliefs of others. There is absolutely no reason, in a civil society, that those comics should have been created and published.

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Afraid of the beliefs of others? Citation needed on this one.

Lashing out? Showing St. Peter having sex with a deity isn’t lashing out to me. It’s just shock value satire. By that logic, Howard Stern is lashing out all the time. However I could be convinced people like him a problem. That’s a worthy discussion.

Where did Charlie Hebdo claim it was tasteful satire? IMO, There is no way they believed that. Some of them may have believed that but any reasonable people would have seen all the other media publications out there and would have known where Hebdo stood among them.

As for your last paragraph, I covered that in my previous sections. And to finish off, I appreciate Ryan for putting all his thoughts together and carefully spelling it out. And I also really appreciate him for being civil while doing it.

To wrap up my rebuttal, the idea of question and attacking anything is one of the greatest things to come out of modern society. Many Masons lost their lives question and attacking the power structures of monarchal Europe and we should all admire them for their work. And we should continue to admire those people that exercise that very free speech in the face of danger. Words can’t hurt us unless we allow them to hurt us. We can only use our words to answer the satire that we disagree with. There is no need to get mad. We should always strive to be civil and there are always better way then how Charlie Hebdo did it. But they are not cowardly. They are not lashing out. And they were certainly never afraid of the beliefs of others. They did what they always did. They went after everyone. It’s the ones that killed them or tried to censor them are the ones we need to be disgusted by.

Livingstone

2 thoughts on “Response to Ryan’s Thoughts: RE: Charlie Hebdo Entry

  1. In 25 years of membership, I have come to find that American Freemasonry is NOT tolerant owing to the fact that many American Freemasons themselves are NOT tolerant, nor accepting of others whom may be different, which smacks contrary to what Freemasonry publicly claims to actually be about.

    I appreciated you sharing this topic.

    • American Freemasonry evolved from its esoteric roots to become a mere service organization for many Masons in the 50s. We are seeing Masonry come back to its more esoteric and deep thinking roots, but right now it’s still has too many members who are set in their ways of how they view Masonry.

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